If only we could go back in time to relive the carefree days of our youth. The times when we’d stay out playing all day and we weren’t so caught up in our lives and the lives of others. School, jobs, money, and even relationships weren’t a big deal back then, as we were just learning about the world we lived in. As we grew, so did our worries and things only got tougher. We experienced a lot of good and bad during our 12 years of school and after it’s over, you can’t help but want to relive some of those good times. I know college is going to be the best time ever, but I’d do anything for some more time with the people who truly matter to me in my life and I’m very fortunate that I got to experience this unbelievable movie with two of my best friends.
We first see Mason (Ellar Coltrane) gazing up at the limitless, blue sky as the young first grader daydreams his time away. His mom (Patricia Aruette) picks him up from school and asks why he doesn’t do things like turn in his homework, to which the innocent Mason retorts “she never told us to turn it in”. At home, Mason’s sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) annoys him with her constant singing and blaming everything on him. When he gets to see him, Mason’s dad (Ethan Hawke) often takes him and his sister for fun days out and then gets hounded by their mom later. The kids wonder if they’ll ever get back together, but they just seem too different.
For the rest of the film, we watch Mason grow up all the way until he graduates and heads off to college. The film was shot over twelve years with the same cast coming back each year to film and we really see these people and their characters grow up over the course of the film. Not only that, but we witness our own childhood, brotherhood, sisterhood, and even parenthood in this film, as every single person will find things to take away form this one-of-a-kind film. Incredible writing and pure performances lead us through the nearly three-hour journey of Mason’s adolescence and we learn a lot about these people and ourselves. It’s astounding that this film even got made and I had a wonderful talk with the director if you’d like to learn more about this film because I’m honestly not sure how else to describe it. (Interview with Director/Writer Richard Linklater)
Boyhood is the most sensational film experience that I’ve ever had in a theater and it’s one that I plan on reliving countless times, as I only wish I could relive my own boyhood. The experience was a transformative one and it’s certainly something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. For me and for anyone who sees this film, there is so much to relate to in life’s small moments and while you might not be able to relate to it all, there’s enough to send your mind back to your younger years and you’re able to relive some of the most important years of your life. I found parts of myself and my friends in this film and I’m still baffled at the profound effect that this film had on me.
Ellar Coltrane was given the chance of a lifetime with this role and he really made it his own, literally. He’d live a year, meet up with the cast and tell them what it was like and then they’d use that for the film. He’d never acted before and over the last 12 years, he really bloomed into a talented young man who did and didn’t understand the world around him. This film is as big a part of his life as anything else and seeing him grow up in Texas especially hit home for me. He’s only a year older than I am, but we shared similar experiences in terms of our time in school, interactions with various friends, and even our outlooks on life as a whole. He never gets too angsty, nor is he too outgoing either. Coltrane finds the perfect middle-ground and exhibits what you average teenager is like, while also managing to have his own quirks and opinions. Regardless of your own experiences and general character, you’re sure to find yourself inside of Mason and that’s all thanks to Coltrane. His natural screen presence is astounding and his personal growth is certainly a sight to behold.
Ethan Hawke, a regular in Linklater’s films, gives another astounding performance that really displays his acting chops as he gives one of the best characters arcs that I’ve ever seen. He’s the absentee step-father who only pops up to have fun with the kids and then is gone, but it’s clear he loves his kids and wants to see them as much as he can, without rubbing off on them in a negative way. Patricia Arquette, his antithesis, raises the kids as best she can and tries to find the best lives for them, even at the expense of her being slightly unhappy. As parents, the two allow their children to experience life firsthand and never force them into any type of life, including their own. The conversations that they have with Mason reminded me of talks I had with my own parents; good and bad. Over the 12-year span, their characters evolve as parents and their influence and presence is always felt on-screen, whether they were there or not. Arquette does so much with her calm and sometimes crazy demeanor, while Hawke excels with an understanding of life and putting his heart and soul into every word he speaks.
I firmly believe that Richard Linklater is one of the finest writers and directors that we’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. His knack for creating purposeful dialogue is extraordinary, as everything means something. As a director, Linklater captures the normal moments in our lives and the little things that wind up carrying weight. At the time, we may think of them as nothing, but Linklater allows us to look back and realize just how important those moments were. His vision and his scope is unparalleled and none other than the brilliant writer/director behind the Before Trilogy could accomplish this 12 year feat, let alone attempt such a task. Perhaps what’s best about Linklater is his understanding of people and how they talk and interact, based on where they’re at in life. Mason’s dialouge grows far more intelligent over the years because he changes from a child obsessed with video games, to an educated and artsy young adult. Linklater gets that teens swear and say dumb stuff, so he doesn’t shy away from having his characters say absurd things that really only make sense when you’re young. More than his understanding of how people speak, Linklater understands emotion that people feel in certain instances, allowing his characters to feel as real as the actors portraying them.
Just as it happens in life, years pass by in the blink of an eye and sometimes the most telling signs of the year are the way you look, the music you listen to, or things that you use in your daily life. Much like myself, Mason played with Gameboy’s and N64’s as a young boy, gradually moving up to Xbox’s and then even smartphones. In this 12 year span, the internet really took form and you can’t forget about the creation of Facebook which really changed the game. Whether I’d like to admit it or not, I too went through long-haired and short-haired phases like Mason and even dabbled in the area of facial hair, which didn’t yield the best results. For me, this film is an exploration of my own childhood, as nearly everything Mason did and experienced, I did too. I’ve been in uncomfortable situations with girls, alcohol, drugs, and never knowing what I want to do with my life. Until now, no other film has resonated so well with me and Boyhood feels like the definitive coming-of-age tale for people (guys especially) my age. Though, to call it a coming-of-age tale is an insult to this masterpiece of a film.
I don’t think I have ever been so passionate about a film when it comes to discussing it, writing about, and recommending it. To say it’s a masterpiece is an understatement and it’s a film that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life. If you think I’m biassed because this film is more an exploration of people my age, I’d respectfully say that you’re wrong. You may not have the same experiences that I and others my age may have, but that’s not what this film is about. It’s about your familial relationships, the way you perceive life, and how you grow over the years and see your own physical and emotional growth. This film doesn’t get caught up in life’s big “firsts” that you have when your young and it doesn’t take mediocre events and turn them into fantastical fantasies. It’s straight-forward and truthful about all the different lives we lead and how we grew-up to be the people we are today.